Mark Murphy, director, serves as company director of Solar Productions, an award-winning production company based in the UK that specialises in TV, film and corporate videos. Under the leadership of Mark Murphy, Solar Productions produced the movies For Love Or Money and The Comedian’s Guide to Survival. This article will look at the history of American filmmaking in Britain and why the United Kingdom has proven such a popular location for American movies.
The United Kingdom and Hollywood are connected through Hollywood’s investment in British filmmaking facilities and productions, the American film industry’s use of British source material and an exchange of talent. Several leading American studios have established their own bases in the United Kingdom in the recent and distant past, including the likes of Warner Bros and MGM-British. In addition, the United Kingdom has also created its own major production studios in the US, for example Trilith Studios.
Two of the eight highest-grossing movies of all time have had some British creative, cultural or historical elements, namely Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011) and Titanic (1997). In addition, more than half of the top 20 most financially successful moves had a substantial British element.
Having amassed significant financial reserves in the United Kingdom that could not be repatriated due to exchange controls, Disney opted to make two films from English and Scottish sources in the 1950s. These were Treasure Island in 1950 and The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men in 1952. Both of these movies proved a big hit at the box office, presenting a persuasive argument for Disney to continue to draw on British source material.
Following Walt Disney’s death in 1967, Disney increasingly turned its sights to the UK, producing Robin Hood in 1973 and The Rescuers in 1976. In 1977, Disney embraced the creative flair of A. A. Milne and his beloved characters, producing The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
A vast exchange of talent has occurred between the United Kingdom and United States, with several celebrated film directors crossing the Atlantic to pursue a career in filmmaking. Alfred Hitchcock, one of the most influential British directors of all time, made the majority of his most important pictures in the United States, with the bright lights of Hollywood also luring the likes of Richard Attenborough, Charlie Chaplain, Anthony Minghella, Sam Mendes, Ridley Scott, Danny Boyle and Christopher Nolan. Meanwhile, Stanley Kubrick, Joseph Losey and Tim Burton travelled in the opposite direction, with the American directors settling in Britain.
Many British actors found international fame and critical success, including John Gielgud, Cary Grant, Laurence Olivier, David Niven, Alec Guinness, Joan Fontaine, Richard Burton, Peter Sellars, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Anthony Hopkins, Dame Venessa Redgrave and Sir Daniel Day-Lewis.
Studios from all over the world, and particularly the United States, are coming to see what the United Kingdom has to offer. Indeed, the UK production industry is currently booming thanks to world-class crew, state-of-the-art infrastructure and competitive tax reliefs paving the way for unprecedented volumes of content creation.
According to a report by Entertainment Partners, in 2021 alone film and high-end TV investment reached record levels in the UK, with total spend surpassing £5.6 billion. Of that, a hefty £4.7 billion was inward investment from major international productions, representing an 86% increase compared with 2020 figures. While it is clear that American studios are increasingly coming to recognise the benefits of filmmaking in the UK, from the moviegoer’s perspective special effects and clever set design mean that audiences are usually none the wiser.
With epic blockbusters like Star Wars shooting in London, the British film industry is bigger than ever. However, when it comes to filmmaking it is difficult to compete with Hollywood, with the United States boasting the world’s second-most prolific film industry and the world’s largest in terms of both spending and revenue. The American filmmaking industry is colossal, so big in fact that it cannot be contained in a single country, with a substantial amount of Hollywood production spending spilling across US boarders and across the Atlantic to the UK.
Hollywood blockbusters released in 2022 that incorporate scenes filmed in the UK include Jurassic World: Dominion, The Northman, Morbius, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Death on the Nile, The Batman and Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One.
American filmmakers are attracted to the UK largely due to the introduction of a generous UK film tax relief scheme that was introduced by the British government in 2007. Since the legislation came into force, Disney alone has spent circa $2.3 billion on UK film production, a pattern that looks set to continue with the return of the Star Wars franchise and Marvel Studios to British shores. As a result, the UK film industry is currently booming, benefiting not only actors and directors but also sound recordists, cinematographers, VFX artists, make-up artists and a variety of other related businesses.